Cult Observer

Boston Movement Still Harming Students

A Review of Press Reports on Cultism and Unethical Social Influence

 

Title:

Boston Movement Still Harming Students

Issue: Vol. 13 No. 1 1996
Group/Topic:

Boston Movement, Boston Church of Christ, ICC

Source I: ALMANAC
Title Public Forum Session of the University of Pennsylvania Council
Author:
Pub. Date: 12/12/95
Page 5
Source II: The Washington Post
Title "Campus Crusaders"
Author: Stephanie Griest

Boston Movement Still Harming Students

The Boston Church of Christ movement (known also as the International Churches of Christ) now active on or near college campuses on both sides of the Atlantic, continues to harm numerous students while causing great concern among parents and administrators.

At the University of Pennsylvania Council's public forum session late last fall, Acting Chaplain Fred Guyott rose to introduce the issue, about which religious organizations on campus were expected to deliberate and advise the Provost. The Rev. Guyott called for an investigation of reports of what he described as "behavioral problems in the activities" of the Philadelphia Church of Christ (GPCC). He said that consultations with campus religious leaders, including CA, Hillel, and the Newman Center, and with counterparts at other campuses with branches of the Boston movement (Brown, BU, Columbia, Harvard, and Yale), showed a pattern he characterized as harassment, but which the elders of the GPCC attributed to zeal.

As a number of Council members sought clarification on the relationship between this issue and any incursion on freedom of speech, the Rev. Guyott said that an educational approach could concentrate on specific behaviors that students and parents have reported as harmful (harassment, persistent phone calls, and visits within dorms), and that he would observe the line between behavioral and theological issues in taking this to the advisory bodies. (From the summary of the Public Forum Session of the University of Pennsylvania Council, ALMANAC, 12/12/95. 5)

A Suicide
The capacity for the Boston Movement to occasion expression of great concern, and coverage by the press around the country, was revealed once again in September when The Washington Post published a very lengthy treatment detailing the group's activities in the D. C. area.

The Post story begins by recounting the tale of Miguel Antonio Longo, a devout Catholic fresh out of Cornell University, who several years ago visited his parents' home country, Puerto Rico, where he met a friendly Christian at an art gallery, and readily accepted an invitation to a Bible study. Two years later, he hanged himself back in D.C., and his parents blame the International Churches of Christ.

The parents' explanation of this tragedy repeats what ex-members, parents and other observers have said, and continue to say, about the typical effects albeit not fatal of membership on all-too-many who become involved. "When they kill the mind, kill the soul, it's impossible to prove. But if you are a parent, you know what he was like before he went in and what he was like after he came out," said Antonio Longo, Miguel's father. His mother Teresa remembers how much her son, who had suffered bouts of depression during his senior year in college, had changed as a result of his sojourn in Puerto Rico. Gone was his sense of humor, his joking demeanor. He only wanted to talk about Scriptures and his new "family." When she asked him if he thought fellow church members could love him more than his parents, he said, "Yes."

But the Post is even-handed. It reports the story of Joi Buckner, a 22-year-old graduate of American University. After two years of repelling the advances of local ICC recruiters she was a very good student, deeply involved in student activities, and a former Miss Washington, D.C. I decided that despite all this, and close, loving parents, "deep in my heart, I am unhappy . . . Well Joi, you can give this God thing a try, or you can choose death." She chose the D.C. Church of Christ, and she says it changed her life giving it meaning and happiness.

Stories like these, of satisfaction with life in the church, like Joi's, on the one hand, and accounts of alienation from family and friends, guilt, loss of control of one's life, on the other, are both common. They agree that members become totally devoted to the life and growth of the church involving an average of 30 hours a week, and significant tithing which exercises great control over their lives through Bible-based, small-group study, separation from other, contaminating influences even as they attend school and are involved in school activities, a system of discipleship whereby older members closely monitor and guide the activities of their juniors, long hours of proselytizing, and a puritanical sexual ethic. Current members seem pleased with the arrangement, spiritually and psychologically secure and happy to be living what they believe to be a real Christian life. (Many former members two out of three recruits eventually leave) I believe their personal development was hindered and sidetracked, their independent spirits broken, and their spiritual needs exploited in the group's milieu. One may conjecture after reading the Post article, which includes much commentary from administrators at colleges that have banned the ICC proselytizing, that both views are correct. (From "Campus Crusaders," by Stephanie Griest, The Washington Post, 9/3/95, F1, F4, F5)

 

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